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Drag Racing Stories
Aug 4, 2009


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80s Funny Cars: Mid-Eighties

Text by Danny White



Current ESPN drag racing announcer Mike Dunn got his first serious ride in the seat of Roland Leong’s AA/FC. The King’s Hawaiian Bread Dodge Omni is shown in 1981 at the famed Popular Hot Rodding Championships at US 131. Dunn was number 3 in NHRA funny car points in 1980 in his first full year of driving. Mike ran a great 5.85, 245 that year, followed by another 5.85 in 1981 that was just a hair off the 5.82 best run that year. Dunn would continue to drive for Leong until the middle of 1984 when he stepped away from driving after a serious accident at Columbus. (Photo by Mike Beach, courtesy of Curt Swartz)



Some funny cars did not run for very long and the Parts Barn Mustang of the Lewis family is a great example. In 1984, Greg Lewis was only nineteen years old when he got behind the wheel of an AA/FC. Greg’s father purchased the Orange Baron Mustang from Gary Burgin. The team ran a few races with a promising 6.12, 236 best pass. By 1985, the team had already stopped racing and Greg Lewis was out of drag racing. (Photo by Mike Sopko and www.quartermileclassics.com)



The Warlord AA/FC was one of a handful of funny cars that raced in Australia in the eighties. The Steve Brown owned Camaro was driven by Ozzie stars like Graeme Cowin and Jim Walton. Cowin ran a decent 6.26, 230 in the Warlord in 1987. The car got a new Daytona body and Al Hoffman took over the wheel in 1988. The Warlord name also was used on a Top Fueler and a blown doorslammer by the end of the decade. (Photo by Mick Turner)



The late Scott Kalitta began his first funny car stint in 1984 with this largely unsuccessful Ford Mustang. Kalitta had a decent Top Fuel career to that point but the team built a funny car when IHRA dumped the Top Fuel class after the end of the 1983 season. The beautiful but boxy Mustang was seldom raced as the family business took up most of Scott’s time. Kalitta ran a best of 5.94 with the car in 1984. Scott ran quicker in 1986, hitting a 5.80 before forsaking the Ford for an Olds shell in 1987. (Photo by Mike Beach, courtesy of Curt Swartz)



Sherm Gunn raced nitro funny cars for more than a decade but is best remembered for his lone national event win at the Pomona Winston Finals in 1984. Gunn won the race in this Camaro that he built in his M&W Welding chassis shop. Sherm ran best of 5.87, 248 at that race. Gunn continued his funny car career, but never again enjoyed the success of that weekend. (Photo by Al Booton)



In 1985, Billy Meyer jumped on the aerodynamics bandwagon with this Mustang. The car is best known for its shovel nose installed on the front spoiler. Meyer experimented with many unique features like a triple magneto setup, joining Dale Armstrong in the fuel car experimentation stakes. In 1986, Billy ran 5.59, 265 in the Mustang at his then brand new Texas Motorplex. The sleek Mustang body, shown here at NHRA St. Louis, was destroyed at the US Nationals and was replaced by one of Kenny Bernstein’s Tempo bodies to finish out the year. (Photo by Dave Ferrin)



Fuel altered legend Ray Higley tried his hand at NHRA funny car racing in the Global Van Lines Daytona. Higley did not enjoy the same success with the funny car as he did with the AA/FA. Ray managed to run a best of 5.96 with the Iverson bodied funny car before stepping away from racing for a couple of years. In the 1990s, Higley returned to enjoy much more success in the AA/FC class with the backing of Red Line Oil. (Photo by
Eddie Dale, courtesy of Tom Nagy )



Jerry Jefferson had raced the Oklahoma Land Rush machine off and on for almost a decade by 1986. In the early part of the1986 season, Jefferson rebuilt the Oklahoma Land Rush funny car with a new Odyssey Corvette body and new parts. The combination came together at the first ever Chief Auto Parts Nationals held at the Texas Motorplex when Jerry went out and laid down an amazing 5.68, 250 run. The performance was half a second quicker than Jefferson’s previous best! High hopes for the 1987 season evaporated when Jerry crashed into Jerry Caminito at Darlington, ending his funny car career. (Photo by Ron Rice)



In 1986, journeyman driver for hire and 1981 Springnationals winner Craig Epperly teamed with Tony Almada to field the field the A Team Daytona. The team bought Johnny West’s truck and trailer and raced out of Almada’s Arizona’s home. The A Team was seen mostly at match races and a few national events in 1986. The team was moderately successful and ran a best of 5.80, 236.84 before splitting up after the 1986 season. (Photo by Mike Beach, courtesy of Curt Swartz)



Jim Holtz's second fuel funny car was the LA Hauler Trans Am. The low budget car was owned by Jim Dickey and Jim Holtz and had some sponsorship from Waste Management. The team raced infrequently and did not qualify for any NHRA National Events. Holtz ran a best of 6.07, 239 during the 1987 season. (Photo by Ralph Reiter)
 

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